“Don’t consume too much butter! It’ll raise your cholesterol levels.”
“Stay away from red meat! It’ll raise your cholesterol levels.”
You might have heard many such statements. After all, cholesterol has a bad rap as it puts you at risk of getting heart attacks, high blood pressure, and arteriosclerosis. But, what if I told you there’s a good kind of cholesterol? And, the best part is that this cholesterol lowers your risk of heart-related diseases.
Well, I’m not cooking up these facts.
In fact, your body needs HDL, or high-density lipoprotein, which is also termed as good cholesterol. HDL picks up the excess cholesterol, especially the heart-clogging low-density lipoprotein (LDL), from your arteries and transports it to your liver. The liver breaks down this cholesterol and removes it from your body.
With this nugget of information, I’m sure you are bursting with curiosity to know how you can ramp up your HDL levels.
So, here’s a list of foods you should consider adding to your diet to boost your HDL:
The poster child of healthy breakfast food, oats are an inexpensive and hearty addition to your diet. Loaded with beta-glucan, oats reduce the absorption of cholesterol from the food you eat. What’s more, it binds itself to the cholesterol molecules in your bloodstream and removes them from your body.
Recommended intake: Three servings of oats in a week
Beans, Lentils, and Legumes:
Choc-a-bloc with soluble fibre, beans not only block cholesterol absorption but also latch onto the LDL cholesterol and expel it out of your body. Additionally, the high protein content makes them a heart-friendly replacement for high-fat animal proteins like meat.
Recommended intake: One serving daily if you’re an eggetarian or non-vegetarian, and two servings daily if you’re a vegan or vegetarian
This super juicy and refreshing fruit brims with the goodness of soluble fibre. This nutrient lowers both triglycerides and cholesterol as well as prevents the buildup of plaque in your arteries. Besides, this citrus fruit contains substantial amounts of folic acid, which increases your HDL.
Recommended intake: Four medium-sized oranges in a week
The vegetarian equivalent of meat, soybean bursts with the goodness of unsaturated fat, fibre, and protein. Also, research is underway to find out if isoflavones in soy increase HDL levels and if phytoestrogens reduce LDL levels and triglycerides, thus improving your lipid profile.
Recommended intake: One serving of tofu or soya chunks in a week
Walnuts and Almonds:
The nutrient-dense nut, walnut, packs in omega-3 fatty acids, which regulate and increase your HDL levels. On the other hand, the flavonoids and unsaturated fats in almonds possess LDL-lowering properties. Plus, both nuts contain significant amounts of plant sterols that reduce the absorption of cholesterol from food.
Recommended intake: Three walnut halves and four almonds daily
The celebrated fruit that’s used to keep the doctor away, apples are full of cholesterol-lowering nutrients: fibre and phytosterols. Besides, the excellent pectin and polyphenol content found in the peel of this delicious fruit increases HDL.
Recommended intake: Medium-sized apple four times in a week
The tiny nutrient powerhouse, flaxseeds, is the richest plant-based source of omega-3 fatty acids and phytohormone lignan. Both nutrients increase HDL as well as lower LDL and total cholesterol.
Recommended intake: One teaspoon of ground flaxseed daily. Pregnant women should avoid eating flaxseed since it may lead to uterine contractions.
It has rightfully earned the heart-friendly oil status given its superior content of monounsaturated fats, especially oleic acid, which increases HDL levels. Plus, it contains large amounts of antioxidants such as vitamin E and polyphenols, which decrease LDL levels.
Recommended intake: One teaspoon of extra virgin olive oil daily
The green jewel, avocado, packs in monounsaturated fat, fibre, and potassium. Its high level of monounsaturated fats increases HDL levels while decreasing your total cholesterol, LDL, and triglycerides.
Recommended intake: Two avocados in a week
Start including these foods in your diet and reap their numerous health benefits.
Remember, diet modification alone isn’t enough. You also need to incorporate exercise into your daily routine, quit bad habits like smoking, and lose any excess weight if you want your heart and HDL levels to stay in good shape.